In memory lane, the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte!

Another wonderful castle in the dept 77 Seine et Marne east of Paris; another wonderful memory of my wife and I traveling in her native department the beauty is amazing here and so close to Paris. We came here the second year after marriage in 1992 and have been coming here regularly in our visits and then while living in France. This is a wonderful story and a beautiful castle still in private hands!

Oh yes, I am talking about the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte.  I know many guides has it as a things to do from Paris because it is close, but it is way other Paris nothing compares to the castle in Paris. You should see it on its own, stand alone property and plenty to see in the area. It is ,also not far from Disneyland and Fontainebleau in the same department of Seine et Marne no. 77.

I have written before in my blog here:  Vaux le Vicomte the king is jealous!

https://wordpress.com/post/paris1972-versailles2003.com/1081

Not to be confused as I know it well, been in my wife’s region and visited several times, one of our favorite castles, and friends of it too;  this is the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, located in Maincy yes  a very small village in the department 77 Seine et Marne about 50 km or 30 miles from Paris near the town of Melun. The Castle was built in the 17C between 1658 and 1661 by ordered of the finance minister of king Louis XIV ,Nicolas Fouquet.  This finance minister had called upon the best builders of the times such as architect Louis Le Vau, first architect of the King 1656, the painter Charles Le Brun founder of the painting academy in 1648, the gardener André Le Nôtre, general building controller of the king 1657, and the master builder Michel Villedo. Their talent was already used by the king to built the Chateau de Vincennes between 1651 and 1653 and later used to build the Chateau de Versailles as the Vaux le Vicomte served as a model.

You have several webpages to help you plan your trip here in addition to my post above; these are

Les Amis de Vaux-le-Vicomte : http://www.amis-vaux-le-vicomte.com/

Official Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte:  http://www.vaux-le-vicomte.com/en/

Vaux le Vicomte at the Paris tourist office: https://en.parisinfo.com/paris-museum-monument/71058/Chateau-de-Vaux-le-Vicomte

Seine et Marne tourist office on Vaux: https://www.seine-et-marne-attractivite.fr/en/node/13081

Ïle de France region on Vaux-le-Vicomte:  http://pro.visitparisregion.com/en/Destination-guide/Paris-Region-guide/Tours/Castles-and-monuments/Chateau-de-Vaux-le-Vicomte

 

Vaux le Vicomte

front gate to Vaux le Vicomte

A bit of history I like is like this:

On February 1, 1641, thanks to the dowry of his wife Louise Fourché, Nicolas Fouquet buys the lordship lands of Vaux to an adviser in the Parliament of Paris, François Nicolas Lotin de Charny, he chooses the castle due to the strategic position halfway between the Château de Vincennes and the Château de Fontainebleau, two royal residences, and because it gives it the title of viscount of Vaux. When Fouquet acquired it, this area was divided into two parts: a modest 14C Chastel and a farmhouse. The Chastel is surrounded by walls and ditches filled with whitewater. It is connected to the path between Vaux-le-Pénil and Sivry-Courtry by a drawbridge. The farm called “Ferme de la Ronce” is located behind the Logis, on the current commune of Moisenay, to which it is connected by another drawbridge. It consists of two parts: in the northern part there is a press, a stable and a barn; The southern part includes the housing, a barn and a shepherd’s house.  The farm and the castle were not located at the site of the present castle. The territory where the present castle will be built is crossed by two rivers that intersect at right angles. One of them is the Anqueuil sung by La Fontaine and whose bed is located at the location of the Grand Canal. The terrain was little wooded, unlike today.

On 10 July 1660, the King and his wife Queen Maria Theresa of Austria stopped there. The Master of the place liked to receive the greatest thinkers of his time such as Madeleine de Scudéry, Paul Pelisson or Jean de La Fontaine.  On July 12, 1661, Fouquet gave a feast in honor of the Queen Mother of England Henriette of France and, on August 17, another in honor of Louis XIV. This festival organized by François Vatel (the great chef of Chantilly) was of great splendour: performances using the most advanced techniques of the moment, representations of plays (including the Unfortunates (Les Fâcheux)  of Molière) and fireworks, were in particular the programme of entertainement.  On September 5, 1661, the king arrested the minister Fouquet at the end of a council held in Nantes. On the site of Vaux-le-Vicomte, all works were interrupted.  Before the claims of the minister’s creditors and while his wife, then exiled to Limoges ; the auction of his property was ordered; The sale of the furniture of Vaux and the residence of Saint-Mandé took place from 1665 to September 1666, after king Louis XIV had taken for himself many precious objects, tapestries, brocade fabrics, marble tables, vases of ruddy, etc. Paving tiles in white and black marble were transported to the Louvre, oranges in crates and thousands of shrubs at Versailles and the Tuileries.

Vaux, not confiscated, was abandoned by the creditors to Madame Fouquet in 1673 with the lordships of Melun and Belle-ile against the payment under ten years of 1 250 000 pounds of privileged debts. Exiled to Moulins, he was forbidden to return to Vaux, where his eldest son, Louis-Nicolas, officer, titled Count of Vaux, was able to settle down.  The latter received on July 15, 1676 the Marquise de Sévigné, who lived there with all the silent fountains and without a drop of water, because they were confiscated.  In 1684, four years after her husband’s death, Madame Fouquet gave the lordships of Vaux and Melun to her son, who from 1683, short of money, had sold to the King white marble slabs attributed to Poussin (at Versailles), then in 1699 antique and modern statues ,  70 wholesale chestnut trees for Trianon and quantity of large carps for the basins of Marly.  In 1687, at 32 years old, he had married the 14-year-old daughter of the famous Madame Guyon, doctrinaire of Quietism, who came to live with the couple in Vaux two and a half years. In 1705, the second and last Fouquet holder of Vaux died without heirs in Paris. Peace returned, the castle received and gave feasts to Queen Marie Leszczyńska, in October 1728, then king Louis XV in July 1731, from Fontainebleau, came to visit the gardens and their fountains. Voltaire, very diligent with the young and seductive Duchess — Jeanne Angélique Roque de Varengeville, 30 years her husband’s younger ,staged tragedies and comedies where she was performing with her guests in a theatre then set up. The famous Adrienne Lecouvreur stayed there in November 1724. There were, as in the Duchess of Maine with seals, sleepless nights to observe, the terrace or the beds, the constellations and the Shooting stars!

The estate was not declared national property in the French revolution, but in accordance with the laws of the Convention, the municipality of Maincy and the Management board of the District of Melun ordered the intendant to hammered out  the arms of the pediment and its lions, as they were animals contrary to the laws, to burn of several painted portraits of the kings of France and tapestries bearing royal emblems, and breaking up busts of Roman emperors. In November 1793, before the notification to remove all the furniture from the front castle under eight days so that nothing opposes its demolition, the Citizen Praslin had the idea of donating to the Republic paintings and decorations of the castle, which made Suspended the demolition, and the two Commissioners appointed to recognize and remove what would be deemed worthy of retention, felt that he deserved to be kept in recognition of those which it was saved. Lucky castle!!!

On June 15, 1875, Alfred Sommier, a sugar refiner and art lover, after having visited it with his friend Bibliophile Gustave Guyot de Villeneuve, royalist prefect of Seine-et-Marne since 1873, impressed by the good state of conservation of Interior decorations of two centuries old, decided to preserve this global work of art, whose apparent bad general condition could cause fear of demolition. The only buyer auctioned by candle on the 6th of July, he then became owner in three lots: the castle and its park, its important communes and dependencies, and three farms, an area of nearly 1 000 hectares. General restoration of buildings was ordered from 1875 to 1893 as well as the gardens, and from July 1877 the Sommier family will stayed there every year from June to December.  On 30 June 1918, Georges Clemenceau, President of the Council and Minister of War, stopped on the way to the grand headquarters of the armies at the castle of Bombon, with the chief of his military office general Mordacq to see the Auxiliary Military Hospital No 23 created at the beginning of the war in the common by Germaine Sommier (1881-1968), born Casimir-Perier, with an exemplary X-ray installation, and where 1 115 wounded were treated. He had lunch at the castle and is photographed with the hospital team and general Mordacq on the porch overlooking the gardens.  The estate then belonged to Count Patrice de Vogüé, who received it from his father Jean de Vogüé, nephew of Edme’s spring (died 1945 without heirs), during his marriage in 1967. It is Patrice de Vogüé who opens the entire estate, park and chateau, to public visits: inauguration is made on 22 March 1968.

A bit official description of the castle.

The castle comprises a hundred rooms for a surface of 2 500 m2, spread over three levels under a roof of 3 500 meters. The Castle preserved from the traditional French feudal plan the rectangular platform surrounded by large moats of water, of which it occupies the south side. Two doors connected the dwelling to the rest of the garden. There are four pavilions, two rectangular-shaped, garden-side, and two other square-sided courtyards, which, seen laterally, still seem twins, a tradition of French architecture. In Vaux, the architect demonstrates innovation by arranging the interior space with a double row of parallel rooms with aligned doors or “double body”. This type of organization of a building has already been used by Louis Le Vau at the hotel Tambonneau in 1640 and by François Mansart at the Hotel de Jars in 1648, but is here applied for the first time to a castle.

Another originality is the living room called in Rotunda (from the Italian Rotonda ,a unique piece). The ensemble, formed by the vestibule and this large space, forms like a central span. This provision, also called Lantern, allows the visitor to have a traversing view in the axis Cour d’honneur-perron-vestibule-driveway in perspective of the gardens located on the other side, around which gravitate two autonomous parts endowed each of a staircase. In the ground floor, on the garden side, there are two apartments; One, destined to the king, is located to the left while the other, to the right, is that of Nicolas Fouquet.  The rooms on the ground floor on the courtyard are, in 1661, bedrooms supplementing the two apartments on the garden side; There is a room serving as a dining room, a piece that appeared in France in the mid 17C. The basement is partly buried, allowing the establishment of a mound plan. A longitudinal corridor crosses the basement, occupied by galleys, offices and officers ‘ chambers.

The kitchen is the opposite of the dining room, but communicates with the buffet on the ground floor thanks to the longitudinal corridor. Two lateral corridors were added in 1659 on orders from Vatel, then maître de hôtel by Nicolas Fouquet.  On the first floor there is also a longitudinal corridor. At the place that corresponds to the vestibule was at the time of Nicolas Fouquet a chapel, side courtyard.  To the left are, on the courtyard side, the apartment of Fouquet, and the garden side, that of his wife, composed on a thickness of 12 meters of an antechamber, of a bedroom (main room of an apartment where the pets have free access, this is the place of the sociability where one sleeps, one receives and one takes meals there) and a work office bureau. Presently Madame Fouquet’s room is divided into two rooms, a Louis XV cabinet and a Louis XV room. The central lounge, called the “Hall of the Guards” from the 17-19C, is a unique piece in the history of French architecture: its originality comes from its oval shape, unusual at the time for a reception room.  The dome is supported by a series of 16 great terms sculpted by François Girardin, 12 bear the signs of the zodiac and 4, the symbols of the Four seasons. The floor consists of white stone and slate with a sundial in the center. The piece is decorated with 4 busts from the time of Fouquet representing Roman characters: Octavia, sister of Augustus, Britannicus, Octavia, wife of Nero, and Hadrian; The 12 other Roman busts carved in Florence in the 17C from the Villa Pompeian (destroyed) of Prince Napoleon, Avenue Montaigne in Paris.

The exhibition of Hercules, the antechamber of the apartment of Fouquet, is adorned with a painted ceiling of a scene representing a Hercules greeted by Olympus. The medallions and panels adorning the vaulted represent the 12 works of Hercules by Le Brun.  The Chamber of the Muses — Chamber of Fouquet — is decorated with a ceiling and a vaulted of Le Brun. This set represents the triumph of fidelity, a reference to the fidelity of Nicolas Fouquet to the king during the sling.  8 muses are divided into the four corners of the vaulted. Figures between the Muses represent the poetic genres. In the middle of the sides are the figures of the nobility and peace, as well as a victory of the Muses over the satyrs. The vaulted evokes the patronage of Nicolas Fouquet. The walls are covered by a support paneling and by 5 tapestries that make up the drapery of Diane’s story. The room also includes an alcove with a Le Brun ceiling representing the night. There is a chimney called “La Romaine” which, unlike the French chimneys, does not spring from the wall.

The small cabinet of the games, which was that of Fouquet, features a ceiling of Le Brun representing sleep. The vaulted and the paneling are decorated with a set of various animals. The King’s Antechamber (current library) is unfinished; It is marked by the alternation of paintings and bas-reliefs: The central oval of the ceiling includes an 18C painting, because the project of Brown, unknown, has not been realized. In the center of the covings are 4 paintings: Diane stripping after the hunt, love and lightning, Achilles imploring Venus to return to him the shield that love stole from her, love and a Vine. The Mahogany library body dates back to the 18C. The angles of the covings include the figure of Fouquet.  The King’s Chamber (the tradition of arranging such a room when the royal Court was itinerant) is also unfinished: even if it is the most lavishly decorated room in the castle (Stuccoes raised with gold leaves including cast lions representing the Royal power, trophies), Louis XIV never slept there. On the ceiling is a painting of truth backed by time, and in glasses are represented gods symbolizing the genie of Fouquet: Bacchus for Abundance, Mars for value, Mercury for Vigilance and Jupiter for power. Leda, Diane, fighter riders, and Fates are present in octagonal medallions. The alcove of the room is not finished, as the ceiling is not painted, as is the Cabinet of the King: framed by convenient, a large Regency-style bed features an embroidered tapestry depicting the history of psyche. The dining room has a coffered ceiling, characteristic of French architecture. Each box receives a table; Four, enrolled in rectangular compartments and represent Apollo (fire), Diane (air), Flora or Ceres (the Earth) and Tritons and Naiads (water). In the octagonal compartments of the ceiling is each of the seasons. In the center of the ceiling is peace bringing back the abundance of Charles le Brun, referring to the peace of the Pyrenees (1659).

The 8 circular or octagonal medallions above the doors tell the story of Io. The arcade overlooking the buffet includes trophies of war and peace. The balcony does not date from Fouquet.  The square room would have belonged to Fouquet’s apartment. In 1661, 6 tapestries from Le Brun were hanged under a painting showing the siege of Fribourg commanded by Marshal de Villars.  The 1st floor (2fl US)  The room of the apartment of Fouquet is the only room on the first floor to have preserved its original decor. The ceilings of the room and the balcony are decorated with a dome-shaped sham. Mrs. Fouquet’s apartment was entirely composed of mirrors and included an antichamber, a bedroom and a cabinet. The room and the Antichamber were completely renovated in the 18C. The cabinet contains on the ceiling an oval with a painting representing the sky; Mrs. Fouquet’s coat of arms appears in the angles.

The gardens are gorgeous, with a maximum length of the gardens (from the Gate of honour to the Hercules) of 1 500 meters and an average width of 200 to 250 meters, the park makes a total surface of 500 hectares and is enclosed by a wall of 13 km of ramparts. The arrival to the castle is done by a bilateral alignment of 257 plantain trees. The two lines of trees are very close to the pavement since they are only six meters away. With the size of the barrels of the trees, this causes an impressive tunnel effect; This 1 400 meters long alignment is a beauty to walk under it. The garden consists of three parts: The first includes a court and a front yard; the second part of the castle and stops at the small canals; and the third part consists of what is located beyond the small canals.

 

Vaux le Vicomte

gardens from back of Vaux le Vicomte castle

Just a gorgeous castle indeed and very much worth a detour if around the area whether in Paris or not.  Happy travels, good health,and many cheers to all.

 

 

 

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